On the pitch, Germany clearly beat the U.S. It beat everyone. But in one of the World Cup's other big battles – sponsorship – an American company is giving its German rival a run for its money. (Or, more accurately, everyone else's money.)
Sponsoring 10 teams, Nike outfitted more teams than perennial soccer equipment and apparel designer Adidas, which had nine this year. It's the first time a company sponsored more teams than Adidas. Puma has eight teams; other sponsors included Mizuno, Marathon and Joma.
The two powerhouses, though, control 70 percent of the soccer market, according to Forbes.
Each company had five teams advance out of the group stage, though Adidas' had won more games. The semifinals were a Nike-Adidas showdown, as each sponsor had one team in each game (Brazil and the Netherlands for Nike; Argentina and Germany for Adidas). Adidas' teams won both matches, making it an all-Adidas World Cup final.
If you consider only the boots, 53 percent of players wore Nike – yet Adidas won the goal-scoring competition, as 79 goals had come off Adidas boots compared to 76 from Nike, according to theScore. Players in other brands had 15 goals. The player with the most goals, Colombia's James Rodriguez, sported Adidas boots.
But the goal that mattered most – the one that gave Germany its fourth World Cup title – came off the foot of Mario Goetze, who was wearing Nike despite playing for Adidas-sponsored Germany. It's not the first time the young German has snubbed the German company – at his July 2013 news conference introducing him as a member of Adidas-sponsored Bayern Munich, Goetze wore a Nike shirt.
"The pictures from the press conference with Mario Götze have us negatively surprised," Adidas spokesperson Oliver Brüggen said at the time. "Contractually this is of course not acceptable because it was an official event of Adidas partner FC Bayern."
No word on how Adidas feels about Götze wearing Nike boots on this much bigger international stage. The company is likely used to it on the World Cup stage. Two of the stars of Nike's last team standing – the Netherlands' Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie – have individual deals with Adidas. On other teams, Guillermo Ochoa wore Mexico's Adidas jersey and his own Nike gloves and cleats; England's Frank Lampard went the opposite way.
Is Nike's infiltration of the soccer market, one Adidas dominated for more than 20 years before the first Nike World Cup goal was netted in 1982, one more way Americans are staking a claim in the sport the world long considered safe from American dominance? It looks like it – and Nike plans to stick around for awhile. The company recently launched a smartphone app that it hopes will continue building the country's interest in the sport, complete with looks back at America's surprising World Cup run into the round of 16, and ways to find and organize games with other pick-up soccer players in your neighbhorhood.
No matter how hard Nike tries, though, it will have to wait awhile to get an official contract with FIFA. USA Today reports that Adidas recenty extended its contract with FIFA, which includes designing the official ball and selling official World Cup memorabilia, through 2030 for a mere $70 million per four years.
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